Wednesday Recipes: Ice Cream Edition

During the summer months, cooking is something of an annoyance no matter how necessary it is. The closer to the equator one lives, the more one begins to wish for technology out of science fiction like Star Trek which would render the need to work over a hot stove or near an oven or grill obsolete. Alas, we will have to wait a while for replicator technology to be invented and installed in every kitchen. However, while we’re waiting this summer, you can try to cool off by making some of these delicious ice cream recipes instead of getting worked up while cooking dinner every day!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 cups packed fresh mint leaves
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)

In a blender blend cream, milk, and mint until mint is finely chopped. In a saucepan bring cream mixture just to a boil and cool 15 minutes. Whisk in eggs and sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and a thermometer registers 170°F. (Do not let custard boil or it will curdle.) Pour custard through a fine sieve into a bowl. Chill custard, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day. Chop chocolate. Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and stir in chocolate. Put ice cream in freezer to harden.

Coffee Liqueur Cookies-and-Cream Ice Cream

1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (5-oz.) can evaporated milk
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 cup crushed cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies
3 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur

Whisk together first 6 ingredients; cover and chill 2 hours.

Pour milk mixture into freezer container of a 1-qt. electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. (Instructions and times will vary.) Remove container with ice cream from ice-cream maker, and freeze 30 minutes.

Stir crushed cookies and liqueur into ice-cream mixture. Transfer mixture to an airtight container or a loaf pan covered tightly with aluminum foil; freeze 3 to 4 hours or until firm.

Coffee-Chocolate Ice Cream

1/2 cup granular sweetener for ice cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 cup half-and-half
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons instant espresso
1/4 cup shaved semisweet chocolate baking bar

Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk and half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolk until slightly thickened. Gradually whisk about 1 cup hot cream mixture into yolk. Add yolk mixture to remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk in espresso.

Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids. Cool 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Place plastic wrap directly on cream mixture; chill 8 to 24 hours. Pour mixture into freezer container of a 1 1/2-qt. electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions; stir in chocolate baking bar halfway through freezing. Let stand at room temperature 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

If you would like an ice cream maker or other utensils, be sure to check out our Kitchen and Housewares department!

Tech Talk Tuesday: Mobile Gaming

Tech Talk Tuesday: Mobile Gaming

One of the great things that has come out of the Digital Revolution and the trend in micro-computing and interactive surfaces is that handheld and portable gaming devices have finally become a reality. When I was growing up, hand-held video games were either extremely limited, extremely expensive, or extremely fragile — if not some combination of the three. However, these days, everyone carries around several gaming devices on their person in the form of smartphones and tablet computers. Downloadable apps give people access to games that are fun to play and can let them compete against their friends or just enjoy a fun story by themselves if that is their goal. However, one trend in mobile gaming that is giving a lot of people pause is the freemium model.

Normally, a person buys a game and it’s theirs to play. Any items they find (for example, in an game like Final Fantasy) are part of the game and have no impact on anyone else playing the same game. There aren’t any “cheat codes” that they can enter to suddenly have their characters at the maximum level with the best equipment and statistics. However, in freemium games, you often have the option of spending time or money to achieve the same end. You can opt to spend hours trying to gather the materials you would need to make the best sword or to level a skill for your character or you can buy the same with real-world currency. Sometimes there are short-cuts you can take such as viewing advertising or signing up for something from a sponsor (though this model is practiced less frequently due to its lack of success) but the idea is that, under the freemium model, you can choose to spend money or spend time to arrive at the same outcome. This model was only practical once mobile gaming became practical, however, since it would not succeed on expensive gaming platforms such as most consoles or desktop computers due to the costs of developing for those systems.

Mobile gaming also offers a lot of innovative challenges and play levels not found in the more hard-core and immersive world of console gaming. That’s not to say that mobile gamers aren’t serious gamers. They are. They’re just their own breed and it will be interesting to see how they shape the gaming scene in the years to come.

Throwback Thursday: Super Mario Bros

Throwback Thursday: Super Mario Bros

One of the most iconic figures of the 1980s is that of the 8-bit Italian-American plumber Mario and his twin, Luigi who set out into Mushroom Kingdom underneath New York City. Together, the two brothers made their way past goombas, koopas, and Bowser (multiple times!) until they finally rescued Princess Peach. They had to travel over ground, under water, through the trees, through dungeons, traverse dangerous castles… all in a bid to rescue the fair princess from her captivity.

The first Super Mario Bros game was followed up with a sequel that took place entirely in the dreamworld of Subcon and allowed the player to choose to play as one of four characters — Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, or Toadstool. Each character had different traits in how far, high, or long they could jump and how long it took them to lift something. The third game added still more features including the ability to fly. The follow-up to it, Super Mario World, is one of the most popular and enduring games of the entire series outside of the extremely popular Mario Kart spin-offs.

Mario was actually based on the spin-off from Donkey Kong developed by Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto’s name may be familiar to those who played many games from the 1980s and 90s. He is one of the most prolific developers from that era and one of the most creative and influential developers in recent gaming history. His impact on the gaming world cannot be underestimated — his creation of some of most memorable characters, including Mario and Luigi, could be the subject of many Throwback Thursday posts.

Make a joyful noise

Join in the summer music fests yourself this year by making your own music or doing covers of your favorite songs. If you don’t already play an instrument, there’s no time to learn like the present and no better instrument to start out with than the JB Player Acoustic Guitar! With plenty of people willing to lend a helping hand in guiding you through the beginning stages online and in person, you’ll be confident enough to perform in front of a crowd in no time at all!

Wednesday Recipes: Potato Dishes of Delight

Last week’s grilled chicken recipes put me in mind of some side dishes that would go well with them. One of my favorite things to do with chicken dinners of any kind is potato dishes so this week we’ve gathered some of our favorite potato side dishes to add to your own book of recipes for this summer’s cook-outs or Sunday dinners. Adaptations can be made so that some of them can be made on the grill instead of in the oven to keep you out of the kitchen if you so desire. Potatoes go well with any number of other main courses — steak, pork, fish, and more — so you don’t necessarily have to pair them with last week’s selections only. Mix and match as you wish!

Roasted New Red Potatoes
3 pounds small red new potatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes with oil, salt and pepper. Arrange, cut side down, on a large lipped cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. Roast until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes (check after 20 minutes). Transfer to a serving dish.

Garden Stuffed Baked Potatoes
4 large potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 (10 ounce) package chopped frozen broccoli, thawed
1/2 cup ranch-style salad dressing
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a fork.

Microwave pierced potatoes on HIGH for 12 minutes. Place partially baked potatoes in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Slice off potato tops, scoop out the bulk of the interior of the potato being careful to leave the potato skins intact. In a medium bowl, mash the removed potato interior.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat, stir in butter. Saute onions in the skillet until tender, about 5 minutes.

Combine onions, broccoli, and ranch dressing with the mashed potato. Brush the outside of the potato skins with oil. Spoon potato mixture into the skins. Arrange stuffed potatoes on a cookie sheet.

Bake potatoes for 15 minutes in the preheated 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) oven, or until heated through. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley.

Day Before Mashed Potatoes
9 potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in potatoes, and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes.

Transfer potatoes to a large bowl, and mash until smooth. Mix in the cream cheese, sour cream, onion powder, salt, pepper and butter. Cover, and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a medium baking dish.

Spread potato mixture into the prepared baking dish, and bake in the preheated oven about 30 minutes.

If you need any help preparing any of these dishes, you can get any tools you lack over at our Kitchen and Housewares department!

Drown out the noise of the crowd

Summer means a lot of travel — time in airports, aboard planes, in subways, metros, the Underground, or walking through busy metropolitan areas. Even if you’re accustomed to the usual noise pollution that comes with living in an urban environment, you may find yourself longing for a chance to drown it all out. Well, these Audio-Technica headphones can help you there! With the ATH-M30x Professional Headphones, you can listen to your music, watch your own films or shows, or play your audiobooks without having to crank up the volume to damaging levels to drown out the din of the crowd.

It’s such a good vibration…

Summer is here and with it comes music fests are taking place all over the nation and all over the world. Carry the sounds of your favorite artists’ latest release where ever you’re going with this great, portable, and very affordable FiiO X5 High Resolution Lossless Music Player. With plenty of space for your high-fidelity tracks, you don’t have to worry about having to compress your music library and suffer audio degradation ever again!

Throwback Thursday: Where Are They Now — Full House Edition

Throwback Thursday: Where Are They Now -- Full House Edition

Last month, news broke that Netflix was making a reboot of the popular 1990s family-themed sitcom Full House. That set many people talking and wondering just what happened to the old cast and crew from the original series. Sure, we know where some of them are — Bob Saget hosted America’s Funniest Home Videos for many years and continues to do adult stand-up and John Stamos went on to play several other bit roles and have a successful modeling career. The Olsen twins have been in and out of the news for years, plagued by problems with drugs, scandals, eating disorders, and the paparazzi. Dave Coulier has continued his career as a comedian, Candace Cameron got married and had three children.

But what about the others? Well, that’s what we’re going to look into this Throwback Thursday!

Jodi Sweetin had a good bit of trouble coming off of Full House. She got into drugs and eventually went into rehab and is now clean and sober and turning her life around. Andrea Barber retired from acting after Full House and focused on her personal life. She recently reprised her role as Kimmy Gibbler alongside Dave Coulier in Funny or Die and plans to return to acting soon. Scott Weinger went on to voice Aladdin in Disney’s movies and has had a very successful career as a voice actor in animation and video games as well as continuing his career as a television actor. The show’s other twins, Alex and Nicky, played by Blake and Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit are also doing well. Blake is a firefighter in Atlanta while Dylan is a sound tech for Game of Thrones. Lori Loughlin has continued her acting career and expanded her repertoire well beyond the family-friendly sitcom and into drama, documentary, horror, and thrillers.

We’re all really looking forward to seeing what the reboot of Full House will look like and how the old characters and their actors will reprise their roles and stories after so many years.